I’ve been on a bread-baking kick lately. I find something cathartic about the process, and the house smells delicious as the bread sits in the oven forming a rust and a soft and chewy interior, perfect for dunking into bowls of hot soup on cold winter nights.
But baking bread takes work, and baking bread daily just seems like a monumental task when you have a job and four kids and all the responsibilities that come along with a job and four kids. That is, until I found Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg. Then with just a simple recipe and a 5-quart bucket, I can bake bread just by letting it rest and sticking it in the oven on a daily basis. Genius, really, and easy for anyone looking for a way to make their own bread on a daily basis using real ingredients. Next up? Working in a complete sourdough starter into the recipe.
Artisan White Bread adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
6 1/2 cups (2-pounds) unbleached all-purpose flour (for King Arthur, add 1/4 cup water to the mix)
Prepare the Dough: Mix together water, yeast and salt in a 5-quart bucket or bowl with a lid. Dump all the flour in and stir with a wooden spoon until all the flour is mixed in. Put the lid gently on the bowl and then leave the bowl out for 2 hours to let the dough rise. Once the dough has risen, place it in the refrigerator.
Bake the Dough: Cut off a grapefruit-sized hunk of dough around 16 ounces. (You can use a kitchen scale to measure it.) Form a ball and place the ball on parchment to let it rest for at least 40 minutes. I prefer a 60-minute resting period to get more holes in the interior of the bread and a bit less dense of a loaf.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with a baking stone on the center rack and a metal pan on the lower rack. Do not use a glass pan, for it will crack when water is added to it.
Slice the top of the dough ball with a sharp blade, 1/4″ deep, several times. Slide the parchment with dough onto the tray and add a cup of hot water to the metal pan below. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove the parchment. Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes (total cooking time 30-35 minutes). Crust on the bread should be a golden brown when removed. Allow to sit until bread is room temperature before slicing.
Repeat: Continue to cut off chunks of dough and bake daily with minimal effort.